Tuesday, 22 July 2008

What’s in a name?

By ‘Worried’ of Durham

Democracy is a wonderful thing, isn’t it? It gives Joe Public (that’s you and me) an opportunity to shape our society; it gives us collective power; but sometimes (just sometimes, mind you) it brings with it awesome responsibilities…….

I’ve been losing sleep recently. I’m troubled. I take my democratic responsibilities very seriously you know.

So what is it that has me pacing the floor at night? I’ll tell you……

Next April, the good burghers of County Durham (that’s still you and me by the way) will have a new ‘super duper’ council to watch over us. No longer will we have the confusion of district councils, borough councils, and a county council. No: we will have just one ‘all-purpose’ council. So far so good (or not, depending on your point of view). Life will be much simpler. It’s change. It’s progress.

But this is why I’m losing sleep. Very soon, someone in authority is going to consult me. They’re going to ask me to make a contribution to a debate. And I don’t know if I can handle the responsibility.

They’re going to ask me (and you) to help decide on a name for our ‘super duper’ council.

Our leaders are doing all they can to make our decision easy, mind you. They’re not asking us to come over all original or anything – that would demand far too much of us good burghers. Instead, the council’s cabinet are going to consult us on which of five possible names we’d like for the new body.

The local press reported recently that a series of consultation meetings will be convened to discuss proposals for how the council should provide people with more “local choice” and “local voice” over council services. (You can imagine a late night meeting in the council chambers; our leaders sitting around trying to come up with something snappy as a slogan. “I know”, says one bright spark, “local choice; local voice”. “What does that mean?” says another. “Does it have to mean something?” says bright spark. “It just sounds sort of, well, nice; and cuddly; and local”. Vote carried unanimously).

I’m sorry, dear reader, I went off on one there – I put it down to worry; and lack of sleep, obviously. Where were we? Oh yes….

Five names. And here they are:

Durham County Council

County Durham Unitary Council

Durham Unitary Council

County Durham Council

Durham Council

I’m a simple soul (you’ve probably realised that already), but it occurs to me that Durham County Council would be a good choice. It’s not new; it’s not radical; but it is familiar.

It strikes me that it’s also the ‘zero-cost’ option. We’ve already got the all-important logo. And there’s probably a mountain of paper stored away already, beautifully printed and proudly bearing the name Durham County Council, just waiting to be used for all sorts of official and important correspondence.

Call me an old cynic if you will, but a new or different name will mean two things for certain.

First, it will mean branding consultants (or whatever trendy name they’re called these days) are brought in to ‘refresh’, ‘re-invigorate’ and (probably) ‘re-position’ the Durham brand. They will (for a modestly outrageous fee no doubt), create a new logo, a new corporate identifier, that will take Durham boldly into the future (probably ‘to infinity and beyond’ to borrow from Toy Story).

Second, thousands of trees will die. They will die in order to give us lots more paper to be stored away, beautifully printed with the new shiny name and logo….

I don’t want these trees to die. See now why I’m losing sleep?

We Durham burghers will, no doubt, look upon this new shiny authority with its crisp and clean logo and pronounce it to be a thing of beauty, a joy to behold……

But wait. Do you want a council that could end up being known as SEEDUC (County Durham Unitary Council – you have to say it out loud for best effect), or even just DUC (Durham Unitary Council)? We’ve already got Toilet Duck, so there’s room for confusion there I fear…..

No, I’m afraid Durham County Council does it for me every time. It does exactly what it says on the tin.

It’s a Council.

It’s county-wide…

And it’s Durham.

I could do well in this branding consultancy lark. And if our cabinet leaders are reading this, my bill is in the post.

Now, to sleep……..my work here is done.

(And because this is a democracy, your thoughts count too. Tell us what you think….)


COBBLERS said...

I suppose we should claim that 'you heard it here first'.....

Good to see that another responsible burgher of Durham - John Routledge of Witton Gilbert - has come to the same conclusion as our poster in maintaining that the name of our new super-duper authority should remain as Durham County Council (see the letters page of the Northern Echo on July 26).

Mr Routledge, we salute you!

Roger Cornwell said...

You couldn't make it up, could you?

They didn't dare consult us over whether or not we wanted this council, but they are consulting over what it should be called.